(Blu-Ray/Roku/tubi) As one might suspect, I was a gigantic nerd in my youth, enough of one that I was part of a group in high-school that would pool our lunch money to order LaserDiscs of late 80s anime and we’d then, err, find ways to ‘happen upon’ ways to duplicate copies for all involved. Let me tell you: bootlegging works were far more difficult, but far more enthralling, back then.

Apart from the soundtrack occasionally popping up in my playlists over the years, I’d mostly forgotten about PROJECT A-KO (despite still having a proper VHS copy of it)! At least, until this post popped up in my feeds.

The immediate flashback this post induced was: “oh, now that I think about it, this anime wasn’t just fan-service, it was super gay.” And, yup:

“The basic plot of PROJECT A-KO is: one dumbass lesbian fighting another dumbass lesbian to win the heart of the dumbest lesbian in the lands.”

I forgot how funny, how comic, PROJECT A-KO was, even though I know I didn’t get the bulk of the in-jokes and parodies and references back-in-the-day, and probably still don’t. However, it features a ton of hilariously universal kinetic physical comedic moments, while still often feeling grounded despite, you know, someone using numerous missiles as stepping stones during combat. Additionally, while the characters do a lot of punching, there’s not much in the way of punching down. Everyone here is flawed and messy and definitely either queer or over-protective found family, and you’re meant to identify with their flaws, rather than scorn them.

I rarely recommend any YouTube film-centric commentary video that runs for over an hour because I often don’t have the patience for watching them, but I highly recommend the one linked in the MeFi post above. I learned a lot, and it brought back a lot of memories.

Lastly, the OST is well-worth your time. Spaceship in the Dark is still a banger with all of its orchestral hits.


(DVD/Blu-Ray) Back in May I posted about MUBI teaming up with the Music Box Theatre — a Chicago arthouse theater — for a two week ‘Back on the Big Screen’ event. (The previously recommended MATINEE was also part of the programming.) The sole film I didn’t recognize was Ming-liang Tsai’s GOODBYE, DRAGON INN, so I immediately bought a ticket without reading anything about it, apart from a sentence fragment I accidentally skimmed while patching up my Music Box Chrome extension: “It’s the final show at Taipei’s enormous Fu Ho movie palace”

The screening was surprisingly well-populated for a Monday matinee in early June — a good sixty, seventy or so folks, all vaguely socially distanced and mostly masked. Maybe more? I’m poor at eyeballing an audience but, given that two weeks prior, I was the sole person at a Wednesday matinee, it was a solid crowd.

That said, based on what I overheard upon exiting the film, a good two-thirds of them walked away feeling disappointed, expecting something far more gripping or narratively substantial than they received. Obviously, I don’t hold the same opinion.

GOODBYE, DRAGON INN is first and foremost a mood piece. Apart from the film that plays throughout the bulk of the piece (DRAGON INN, 1967), there’s very little dialogue in the film. A young man enters a film palace screening its final film before closing. A black cat scampers down the hallway. A woman with leg braces clomps around, doing her last daily rounds, stepping across leaky spots in the deteriorating building. She brings food up to the projectionist, who is missing from the projection booth. Said young man encounters a small number of individuals during the screening, some who may be real or may be ghosts. One particularly memorable individual is a woman who loses her shoe while endlessly cracking enough sunflower seeds to flood the theater stairway. The young man leaves. The woman closes up shop. The projectionist leaves. The woman follows.

In other words, GOODBYE, DRAGON INN is comprised of atmospheric vignettes of theatergoers and theater operators. It has the barest of narrative arcs, and few specifics about the characters that inhabit the theater, and even those specifics are inferred instead of explicitly stated. It’s pure cinema in that it shows, it doesn’t tell, which is obviously why it was brilliantly part of MUBI’s programming. While it’s not to everyone’s taste — after the film, I grabbed a drink outside at a local bar and couldn’t help but hear two folks bitch and moan about how boring the movie was — this sort of visual longform work is catnip to me, and I feel very lucky to have been able to attend the screening, and very thankful that MUBI did program it instead of a film that may have been more popular, but certainly would have been far less interesting.

(This is yet another case where the film is not available to stream, and hunting down a copy for a region one player can be costly and very difficult, so I’ll wink and suggest a YouTube search instead.)


(DVD/BR/YT) ELECTRIC DREAMS is an odd high-concept romantic rivalry/surveillance thriller about architect Miles (Lenny von Dohlen, best known as the agoraphobic florist from TWIN PEAKS), his computer, cellist Madeline (Virginia Madsen), and the love triangle they inhabit, one with shades of CYRANO DE BERGERAC.

Given that I was both a computer nerd and practicing cellist as a youth, I’ve seen this film more than a few times over the years. Yes, its portrayal for what a mid-1980s computer was capable of doing was wildly overblown, but it had a fantastic soundtrack — as you would expect as it’s courtesy of Giorgio Moroder — and was extraordinarily shot. It has a number of lush scenes that highlight the difference between video and film, as well as a more than a few fantastically composed visual vignettes, and Madsen is absolutely charming as Madeline. It certainly was one of the first narrative films that ‘spoke’ to me, that made me feel seen, given that it was both about computers and a cellist.

The film features a musical number where Madeline warms up by playing Bach’s Minuet in G Major (what the ELECTRIC DREAMS soundtrack dubs as the ‘Mad Minuet’), which was one of my warm-ups when I was a young cellist so I can’t help but love it, but I also adore how long and -fun- the scene is. I was never a brilliant cellist — although I was good enough to be in a quartet to play for then-Vermont governor Howard Dean — but when I got on a roll, when I was in the zone, it felt just as exuberant and gleeful. You can view the number below:

ELECTRIC DREAMS has been unavailable in the U.S. for some time now, but there was a recent UK Blu-Ray release via Second Sight ( ). There’s also a copy floating around YouTube that I may have already ‘accidentally’ linked to. (Shh, don’t tell!)

“Hm. Very smart, but weird.”

P.S. There’s a great post-mortem about the film available on YouTube. And, for what it’s worth, there are two scenes I remember vividly from watching it as a youth: the motherboard being washed out, and Madeline’s cello being crushed in the elevator. Madsen’s method time was worth it.


(Arrow/VOD/Blu-Ray) ‘Girl gang’ exploitation films are a big blind spot for me, one I’ve been trying to rectify for a while now. While I dearly love the SWITCHBLADE SISTERS podcast (RIP), I knew absolutely nothing about the film going in apart from the fact that Tarantino featured it in his short-lived Rolling Thunder VHS series. I assumed it was a bit of an insensitive gender swap on male gang films of the early 60s, and, boy, was I wrong, because this film is gonzo.

While it does have several unfortunate exploitation hallmarks — easy nudity and a rape scene — ultimately director Jack Hill (SPIDER-BABY, FOXY BROWN) does these girls right by portraying them as hardened, take-no-shit folks, literally constantly circled by the patriarchy, willing to wage a fucking war when the time comes, and oh yeah, they rain holy hell down in the third act.

This is a film that’d be celebrated for its vibrant anger if it were made today. So many thinkpieces would be penned about how Lace talks through her teeth!

Arrow recently released a pristine Blu-Ray, which I highly recommend. However, while I love the cover art, I can’t help but point out that the rendition of Patch has her eyepatch on the wrong eye and it’s irked me ever since I noticed the discrepancy, even though it has to be intentional but I can’t imagine why. That said, Arrow thoughtfully included the original artwork as a reversible cover!

Arrow’s trailer:

Original trailer (NSFW):


(Criterion/DVD/BR) Unfortunately it’s currently not available to stream, but Criterion recently released a newly restored edition of SMOOTH TALK, a very dark coming-of-age tale from documentarian/director Joyce Chopra based on Joyce Carol Oates’ short story WHERE ARE YOU GOING, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? It’s vintage 80s, very sun-kissed, featuring Laura Dern in one of first roles, plenty of mall shopping, bangles, and teen girl sexuality.

It’s also worth noting that the new Criterion release also contains a copy of Oates’ short, well-worth reading after watching the film, if you haven’t read it already. (Or you can read it here.) I simply love it when Criterion does this sort of thing. For instance, my Criterion copy of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK has a bundled copy of the source material.


(Blu-Ray) (A quick caveat: skip over any public domain copies of this film.)

THE MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM is notable for several reasons: Michael Curtiz (GONE WITH THE WIND) directed it; it features Fay Wray’s scream just a bit before she’d appear in KING KONG; it was one of the rare Warner Bros. horror films of the 30s (including DOCTOR X, which Curtiz also directed, and also starred Wray); it influenced a number of films (obviously it was remade into HOUSE OF WAX, but I speculate it also trickled down to DARKMAN); it was also the last Technicolor two-color process film, and it looks -gorgeous-.

What’s interesting about color and film is that, while we have THE JAZZ SINGER as (unfortunately) the bellringer for talkies, films have been projected in color practically since their inception, either through reel-tinting or even hand-tinting, or early Technicolor processes.* THE MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM’s use of the two-color Technicolor process** is an astounding marvel, leaning into the gauzy, muted nature of the development procedure, utilizing it to create a far more expressionistic film that it’d be without color. The closing scene in the basement is especially striking, not just because of the set design and acute angles, but the use of light and shadow and command of tint.

Again, there are a lot of reasons to watch this — it’s a fun popcorn film, Wray is fantastic in it, although she’s supporting character and not the lead, and Glenda Farrell makes a meal out of her screwball crime reporter character — but you’re doing yourself a disservice if you watch an older or public domain print. It was restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive and The Film Foundation in 2019, then released commercially in 2020, and that’s what you want to see.***

“Images of wax that throbbed with human passion! Almost woman! What did they lack?!”

** For more on early Technicolor processes, which are all distinctly fascinating, check out:

*** See for more information on the restoration process. Also, here’s a before/after video:


(kanopy/Apple TV/Blu-Ray) Cinerama was a widescreen shooting and projection process that, at its time, was the closest you could get to a wholly immersive filmgoing experience. The way it worked was primitive and troublesome, as it not only shot three negatives at the same time (similar to early Technicolor films), but it did so through three cameras, positioned so the footage could be (mostly) seamlessly projected by three projectors.

The end result is spectacularly overwhelming. While the primary allure is the all-encompassing visuals, you’re also bombarded by seven-channel directional surround sound. It truly is a unique experience when it works, but projecting films like this is a hairy process, one that requires constant monitoring for -each- projector. (You can read more about the projection process here.)

If memory serves, the process broke down and had to be re-synced when I saw THIS IS CINERAMA at Los Angeles’ Cinerama theater during TCM Fest, a time when you have your top projectionists on the job. (The LA Cinerama is one of the few existing Cinerama theaters; the other two are in Seattle and Bradford, England.)

Cinerama as a shooting process didn’t last long, thanks to the unwieldy cameras and the introduction of single-strip widescreen lenses like the Ultra Panavision 70, but the theaters survived as many widescreen spectacles were converted to their three-strip projection setup, not unlike how many 35mm films are blown up for IMAX screens.

“So,” you might ask, “if it’s about the experience of being in a high-end theater, why should I watch this on my laptop? Also, isn’t the film mostly a travelogue with some choreographed water skiing?” Well, yes, you certainly aren’t watching for the story. However, while the current restoration allows you to watch it like any widescreen film, it also allows you to view it in the shape you’d see it in at the theater. In a time when we can’t — or at least shouldn’t — be attending theaters, it’s a similarly unique home viewing experience.


(DVD/BR) While I appreciate Bob Fosse as a talented choreographer and director, I don’t think much of the man himself, which is what conflicts me about this self-indulgent paean from himself, about himself, to himself. On one hand, the self-glorification of his caddish behavior — even if he hangs a lampshade on it — is pretty despicable and, even more criminal, it’s often dull. On the other hand, the closing scene is a goddamn stunner, and may make the film worth your moral price of admission.

Closing scene (NSFW):